A prominent member of the Islamic Republic's Cultural and Social Council for Women is defending child marriage, arguing it protects girls from a life of prostitution and illegal abortions.

Fereshteh Rouhafza said told ILNA in an interview published on December 4, that in light of the rapidly growing number of increasingly young girls undergoing illegal abortions and joining the sex trade, “opposition to child marriage is wrong.”

Rouhafza, who is in charge of planning and policy making for the council, declined to provide evidence of her claims about Iran’s young women, saying the statistics are available, but it would be irresponsible to make them public.

"Publishing the statistics will encourage other underage girls to follow suit. I believe revealing such statistics is harmful to society,” Rouhafza said.

Though Rouhafza supports child marriage, she is a staunch opponent of integrating boys and girls in school. It is their contact outside of marriage that leads girls down the path to prostitution and illegal abortions, she says.

“When thirteen-year-old girls become familiar with sexual affairs, they will definitely seek sexual relations with their opposite gender,” Rouhafza warned, adding, "Girls of thirteen, if informed about sex, long for the opposite gender and sexual intercourse."

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